The Charleston technology industry is getting its first major exit of the year with the sale of 4-year-old Engage Talent to an Orlando company, news that came with a promise to expand the firm’s local presence.
One of Charleston’s few artificial intelligence firms is being acquired by Workforce Logiq, a workforce management company. Engage Talent’s AI tools mine thousands of sources of information to draw conclusions that can help employers hire workers and even pinpoint which workers might be likely to leave the company soon.
The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Workforce Logiq has roughly 1,000 employees and 8,000 customers. It is owned by the publicly traded investment firm Carlyle Group.
Joe Hanna, the Engage Talent CEO who founded the company in 2015, said the acquisition will give employees in the local office the opportunity to “focus on what we’re good at, which is being geeks and being data scientists.”
Hanna said he was not actively looking for a buyer for his company, but the technical backgrounds of Workforce Logiq’s leadership appealed to him. The two companies will be a strong cultural fit, he said.
Hanna will join Workforce Logiq as chief strategy officer. He said he will continue to be based in Charleston and will be managing director at Engage Talent.
With a new parent company, Engage Talent is also adding a new skill set. Hanna said the data analytics have focused on analyzing full-time employees so far, and will now evaluate contingent and freelance workers.
Jim Burke, CEO of Workforce Logiq, said the reason for buying Engage Talent boils down to picking up “the ability to be proactive versus reactive.” Up to this point, the Florida firm has not had in-house AI capabilities. And Burke hoped to give his customers the tools to predict what workers will do — useful when recruiting and retaining talent.
So, Burke said, his team set out to buy a company with that kind of expertise a little more than a year ago. They settled on Engage Talent in large part because the firm makes it easy to understand and use its conclusions.
“It’s only useful to the extent someone can understand it and act on it,” Burke said.
An acquisition usually signals much of the target company’s staff being cut loose, but Hanna said that won’t be the case with Engage Talent and Workforce Logiq. Actually, both parties said they plan to expand the firm’s footprint in Charleston. It employs about 30 people, and it is hiring.
“We were able to put together a team here in Charleston that is very difficult to assemble anywhere,” Hanna said. “It would be silly to think about impacting that team now.”
As of mid-summer, Engage Talent had reportedly raised a little more than $10 million in investments. Its offices are in the Pacific Box & Crate development on upper King Street.
Its first round of funding, which closed in early 2016, was led by the South Carolina Research Authority, Meeting Street Capital and Charleston Angel Partners, the latter two of which are local investment groups.
Bob Quinn, executive director of SCRA, said the organization’s affiliate S.C. Launch has invested roughly $30 million in its 13 years into early stage companies. Not all will make it to an exit, however.
“Engage Talent is a prime example of the benefits of investing in South Carolina’s innovation economy,” Quinn said in a written statement.
Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.